Cans of the notorious “energy beer” will now have to display labels advertising a super-sized alcohol content.
Four Loko, the controversial “energy beer” that was forced to drop the stimulants caffeine, taurine and guarana from its product by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year, has come under fire from the Feds again. This time, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has pressurized Phusion Projects, which makes the drink, into labeling its super-size cans to spell out their high alcohol content. Customers who were wondering why Four Loko—which was originally named for its alcohol, caffeine, taurine and guarana quadruple whammy—hasn’t now become “One Loko” may find their answer in the informative new labels: each monster can contains as much alcohol as four (or even five) regular beers. The FTC claims Four Loko misrepresented this as only the equivalent of one-to-two regular 12-ounce beers’ worth of alcohol—and while Phusion denies any wrongdoing, it’s agreed to change the labeling. “Even though we reached an agreement, we don’t share the FTC’s perspective and we disagree with their allegations,” stressed Phusion co-founder Jaisen Freeman. The FDA originally insisted that stimulants were removed from Four Loko due to safety concerns—passing out is one of the body’s defenses against drinking too much, but stimulants work against this, which may have been a factor in the death of 15-year-old Four Loko drinker Bo Rupp last year. When Freeman and his co-founders Jeff Wright and Chris Hunter spoke exclusively to The Fix earlier this year, they lamented the damaging effects some bad press had had on their company—a consideration that prompted them to jump before they were pushed this time around. “Unfortunately we were pegged as the bad guys,” said Wright then. “We tried to keep a low profile, but we couldn’t stay out of the headlines.” It seems they still can’t.